Palestinian ministries put on alert

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Qureia has said some ministries will be placed in a state of emergency until Israeli forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip to allow the Palestinian Authority to take control in the evacuated zones.

    Prime Minister Ahmad Qureia seeks a national unity cabinet

    Qureia said on Tuesday that he wanted to establish a national unity cabinet of Palestinian factions to ensure the planned Israeli withdrawal went smoothly.

    "If they (the factions) wish it, we have no objection to the creation of a temporary government of national unity for overseeing the withdrawal," Qureia said in Gaza City after a weekly cabinet meeting.

    "All those who wish to join the government are welcome."

    The Palestinian government is dominated by the mainstream Fatah movement, but other influential Palestinian groups in Gaza, such as Hamas, have made clear they want to participate in the administration of the territory after Israel's departure.

    Hamas rejection

    But Qureia's proposal received a cool response from Hamas, which dismissed it as "an act of propaganda".

    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri
    (R) speaks in Gaza City

    "This offer is not serious, for it has been announced through the media without being submitted beforehand to the factions," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

    Under the terms of Israel's disengagement plan, Israel is to evacuate all troops and over 8000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip and four other enclaves in the northern West Bank in an operation due to start in mid August.

    Officials to be detained

    Also on Tuesday, the Palestinian attorney-general said he had instructed police to detain several former Palestinian Authority officials over alleged financial mismanagement.

    Corruption and lack of financial transparency were rampant in the governing authority during Yasser Arafat's leadership and prompted foreign donors to withhold aid.

    Mahmoud Abbas, who became president after Arafat's death in November, has pledged to crack down on corruption.

    "We have ordered the police and the specified authorities to arrest and bring for interrogation more than five former Palestinian officials on suspicion of financial corruption," Attorney-General Hussein Abu Assi said.

    "If we find sufficient evidence against them, they will be tried and put in jail. We gave the list to the police to summon them because some are either outside the country or their addresses are unknown to us," he said.

    Abu Assi's instructions marked the first time the Palestinian Authority has moved against officials suspected of corruption and misuse of public funds.

    Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad, who has won international praise for instituting financial reforms, said action must be taken now against officials suspected of corruption.

    "We'll spare no effort to exercise accountability," Fayyad said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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